The Death of DVRs: Long Live the DVR!
Some refer to a DVR as nothing more than a large hard drive in a computer. ReplayTV, a pioneer in the DVR business, is dumping its hardware in favor of software. That is, ReplayTV is saying good-bye to its own DVR and hello to having your computer double-up as a DVR device. The "ReplayTV PC Edition" was supposed to go on sale in September 2006. A lesson to emerging new media students and scholars: the majority of new product announcements are premature. I've written that the reason for this is that it's easy to see the end-state scenario in which the new product is ready for market, but it's difficult to predict what pitfalls there will be on the road to market. Here we have a small example of that. ReplayTV was not ready with its PC Edition until mid-November 2006.
Back to the business at hand, ReplayTV now sells software that can be loaded onto your PC or laptop that will allow you to record television shows without the monthly charges the cable and satellite industry members as well as TiVo charge. Your computer must have a TV tuner to use this software, however, and few people have added this to their PC even though the technology has been around for years. Of course, it's easy to imagine the large electronics chains like Best Buy and Circuit City pushing the TV tuners on new computer customers (after all, it's the add-ons that hold the profit for computers, not the computers themselves.
Source: replaytv.com accessed 28 November 2006. There is a slideshow of ReplayTV's PC version beginning on http://www.replaytv.com/replaytvway.asp as of 28 November 2006.
Well, the image above, courtesy of ReplayTV, shows a concept that hardly looks new, and it does not show a hint of a television program. However, any PC owner with a TV tuner can download the software and try the service for 30 days free. Given the track record of the immediate bond between TV viewer and new DVR, it would seem Replay TV has set itself up quite nicely, although its potential market today is small (the target appears to be college-age young adults living in dorm rooms or small apartments where the PC screen does not need to be very large to "watch TV" on the PC.
And once again we're sliding into the area of debate about "lean forward" (using a computer) versus "lean back" (watching TV) which I have said many times is a false dichotomy. One example would be having perhaps 25% of your screen display showing that sporting event you wanted to see while, multitasker that you are, you are writing that proposal for bringing peace to the Middle East. Marketing gurus love this kind of terminology, but I once again call it bunk.
As for ReplayTV's market, let's see if I can find out how many TV tuner enabled PCs there are out there (and please note that I generally am always limiting myself to the U.S. which is a complex enough market for understanding interactive television).
You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos! Don't smite me, let me know!